The phone call from Perez Hilton came two days earlier than planned.
“He can do it now instead,” his assistant emailed me on Wednesday.
I was totally unprepared. Hilton’s autobiography, "TMI: My Life in Scandal" (Chicago Review Press) — the one we’re supposed to talk about — sat unread on my desk.
Thinking “right now” might mean I had a few minutes to speed read, I reached for it. The phone rang.
“I love your book,” I said, just to start it off. That’s all it took.
“Thank you,” Hilton responded. “I was so afraid that people wouldn’t like it. There’s so much of me in it, I’m one of the most transparent and honest people there are. People like that, and they like nostalgia and that’s me, I’m a dinosaur.”
Jurassic throwbacks seem a little bit overdone. Hilton hit the scene 20 years ago, garnering almost instant attention with his blend of gossipy take on celebrity distilled through his blog, podcasts, personal appearances and general lifestyle. He didn’t just report of celebrities, he hung with them. If he didn’t like them or had a juicy story, he reported it. His blog quickly was dubbed the “most hated blog in the world,” though he garnered millions of followers.
But the more he talks about being a dinosaur, it starts to make sense. He was one of the first bloggers.
“I started in 2004,” he said. “There are 13-year-old kids who don’t know about blogging, they’re doing TikTok. There were names that were big that no one thinks about anymore. You may luck your way into celebrity, but you have to have perseverance to be a success. You have to learn to reinvent yourself. I reinvented by going into podcasts; I have two YouTube channels. I started Instagram way back in 2011 when it first came out. It’s about knowing when the next trend is coming, and I’ve always been good at that. I’ve outlasted a lot of the stars I wrote about.”
But Hilton is still worried. Sure, he’s constantly metamorphosing, but he’s learned some lessons and he wants to share a few with me, starting with how important it is to live below your means.
“I have three children, I have to save for their education, I have to take care of them,” he said. Does he know about that new purse I bought? I wonder, vowing to return it.
He also worries about the Kardashians. I should note that by this point, I realized Hilton doesn’t have a filter, which is one of the many characteristics that make him so delightful.
“People reach a tipping point,” he said, explaining why he’s concerned about these glamorous, fully-endowed women who seem to have the most beautiful jewelry, homes, children, clothes, husbands, ex-husbands and boyfriends and a fascinating jet-set lifestyle.
I know about the jet-setting because last year, when I was on Providenciales, one of the islands in the Turks and Caicos, we’d made reservations to have dinner at the Conch House, a beach joint where fisherman dive for conch right off the shore and the cooks turn the meat info fritters, stew and all sorts of conch delights. But then the restaurant called and canceled our reservations. Why? Well, the Kardashians had just flown in and wanted to eat there, and they didn’t want non-cool people around. Their evening was filmed for their show. I didn’t watch it. We went the following Kardashian-less night.
But Hilton knows about tipping points. He reached his own a while back and it taught him lessons even if the Kardaashians aren’t listening to his advice right now.
“Now I’m the cheapest person I know,” he said.
Born Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. and raised in Florida, he graduated from New York University, dabbled in acting and public relations but found career success in his ability to feed our celebrity fascination.
“I’m sharing stories in my new book,” he said, “because I want to make money.”
All the juicy escapades with and about stars that I read when I finally read his book are delightful, but they come at a price.
“I work 17 hours a day,” Hilton said. “I never rest. But that’s part of perseverance. The more you work, the more you notice the patterns and you can see how they’re coming together, and which ones will become trends. That’s how you know what the next thing is going to be.”